How to Deal with Difficult People
Many times, the person who is upset or out of control is so because they feel as though others do not understand or are ignoring their needs. Listening, instead of responding or provoking them, gives them a chance to air their grievances, to tell you what the problem is, and to be heard. Just the act of “letting it out” can often calm them down and enable them to engage in a more productive conversation with you. Plus, by listening, you gain valuable insight into the situation that can help you deescalate.
Remember What You Can Control
In any situation, it is essential to remember what you can and cannot control. You can’t control their actions, words, or emotions, but you can manage your own. You can regulate your emotional response, choose your words, and respond with kindness. If they are upset over something that is outside of your influence, you can’t control that either, so you should not accept the weight of their distress because it was not due to you. Focus on what you can control, and the whole situation will feel more manageable.
The calmer you are, the more likely the other person is to remain calm or to simmer down after their initial blowup. They will take their cue from your energy, and the longer you remain calm, the more likely the situation is to stay in control. And the more in control you are of yourself, the more they will be able to respect you and hear what you have to say.
Find Common Ground
Building a rapport with the other person can be helpful, so start with what you have in common. Identify with their frustration or perception. Tell them how you have experienced something similar in the past. Ask them to help you resolve the conflict by working together. Explain what you can do for them and see if they have ideas for other ways to fix the problem that are within your control. Work together when possible to resolve the situation.
Enlist the Help of Others
You may not know how to handle every tricky situation, so it is okay to ask for help or advice. When you are dealing with a difficult person, especially someone you see every day or work with, talking with colleagues, supervisors, and others about your situation may give you insight that you had not considered. They may have different perspectives because they see both of you differently than you see yourselves. Be sure to listen to what others have to say and to take this into consideration.
Admit When You Are Wrong
Sometimes, the other person is being difficult because you made a mistake or did something that affected them. When you are in the wrong, be sure to admit it and offer to atone for your error. Being the bigger person and admitting your mistake will go a long way toward diffusing the situation and rebuilding trust between you two for the future.